As they gear up for the second round of games in Groups C and D at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, the featured teams have widely contrasting aims. While the North African and Asian sides are looking to build upon promising starts in the competition, the teams from Europe and the Americas will be hoping for a positive reaction to disappointing opening results.
Match of the day
Tunisia - Russia
Russia got a rude awakening in their opening fixture as they suffered their first ever defeat in the competition. Now, having failed to play to their potential against an impressive Japan side, the reigning European champions must turn things around against Tunisia. The Carthage Eagles, meanwhile, find themselves top of Group D and will be buoyed by their victory against Venezuela, particularly as they were a man down for most of that game after the expulsion of defender Sabri Akrout.
Unlike their more experienced Tunisian neighbours, Morocco are competing in their first U-17 World Cup - and what a start they have made. Having seen off Croatia with almost disconcerting ease, the Atlas Lion Cubs will be hoping to show the same form against Uzbekistan and remain top of Group C. Their opposition will have similar aspirations, however, having dominated their opening match against Panama and given their opponents little chance to showcase their attacking talents.
Los Canaleros, for their part, will be looking to prove themselves worthy successors to the side that left Mexico 2011 with heads held high following defeat by the hosts in the Round of 16. Standing in their way is a Croatia team that shone in their European qualifiers and who will be looking to atone for a heavy opening defeat by Morocco.
Finally, in Group D’s other match, Venezuela will need to be more pragmatic than they were against Tunisia to avoid making the same defensive errors that cost them two goals in that match. Furthermore, they could struggle to find space against an expertly organised Japan defence and will need to focus on retaining possession.
Player to watch
David Zalzman (VEN)
A product of the Barcelona youth system and currently plying his trade at Deportivo Anzoategui in the Venezuelan first division, the Vinotinto playmaker made quite the impression as he emerged on the world scene. In his side’s opening fixture, Zalzman was a key source of danger to the Tunisia defence and hit the woodwork twice. Now a little fine-tuning is all that is needed for him to notch his first goal in the competition.
1 – Before Morocco did so, just one African side had won their first match at their maiden FIFA U-17 World Cup. In 2005, Gambia achieved this feat by sealing a 3-1 victory over Brazil before following it up with another win. They still failed to progress beyond the group stage, however, as O Seleção and the Netherlands finished with a superior goal difference.
“I was very disappointed by our first match. We just weren’t clinical enough with our finishing. But this result won’t change our style of play in the next game – we certainly won’t rush our attacking play or retreat into defence against Japan.” Rafael Dudamel, Venezuela coach.